[tlhIngan Hol] Verbs of measure

nIqolay Q niqolay0 at gmail.com
Thu Mar 28 12:38:33 PDT 2019

On Thu, Mar 28, 2019 at 11:15 AM Will Martin <willmartin2 at mac.com> wrote:

> The point I’m objecting to is this idea that you should present two
> sentences next to each other and have an implied subject or object of the
> second sentence be formally recognized as being limited to the content of
> the previous single sentence.

I absolutely don't think it should be formally recognized as being limited
to the previous sentence, though.

> It never means “the previous sentence”. It always means, “the context of
> what we are talking about”.  If the previous sentence happens to be the
> context that we are talking about, fine. No problem. But it could just as
> easily be some other sentence that was stated earlier than the previous
> sentence, or it could even be a sentence that was never explicitly stated
> but understood as the topic of the three hour meeting we’ve all been having
> together. It could even be something other than a sentence; just a topic or
> fragment of a sentence. It could be Voldemort’s name. It could be anything
> that any appropriate pronoun implied by the verb prefix represents.

It *could* be anything that could be referred to... but it probably isn't.
That's not how people determine things from context. They start with the
things that are directly relevant to the conversation in its current
moment: the topics being discussed, the events and things surrounding them,
other people present, things that have just been said, things that the
participants are physically indicating or interacting with. Those are the
sorts of things that are generally assumed to be always salient. That is,
if a referent or antecedent isn't explicitly present, it can probably be
assumed to be one of those things. (There's probably a more formal or
precise way of phrasing that, but I'm not a linguist.)

If I'm at a sporting event, and the opposing team scores, and the friend
I'm with grumbles, "Ah, this sucks!", what is the referent of "this"? How
can I figure out what sucks? It *could* be anything: the stadium the game
is taking place in, the view from the nosebleed seats, the ache in their
knee that's been acting up ever since we had to walk up to our lousy seats,
the half-eaten hot dog sitting in their lap on a plate, the ambient weather
conditions, an unpleasant childhood memory that crossed their mind, or just
general dissatisfaction with the world in general. However, because I have
had conversations before, I can conclude that they are probably referring
to something that is immediately relevant to the moment: the fact that the
other team just scored.

Like Klingon, English has linguistic constructions for explicitly
connecting pronouns to their antecedents. My friend could have said "Ah,
the other team scored again, and that sucks!" But because my friend is
aware of how people usually interpret utterances in context, they didn't
need to. "Ah, this sucks!" sufficed. On the other hand, if my friend had
wanted to complain about something *not* immediately relevant, they would
know that they probably need to introduce it explicitly before complaining
about it. "Ah, I just remembered traffic on the ride home is going to be
*awful*! This sucks!" or the like. From a Klingon perspective, that's where
constructions like *'e'* or *ngoDvam* come in handy.

This is what I'm getting at. Obviously, an unstated third-person subject or
object is not guaranteed to refer to the previous statement, and I don't
think there should be a rule to that effect. My argument is that, when
Klingon speakers are trying to figure out the intended referent from
context, "the previous sentence" is going to be considered as a possibility
long before something discussed three hours ago, or something entirely
unrelated. The point of trying to find canon citations was to support the
idea that Klingons also have "the previous statement" in their mental
category of immediate referents. Of course, there are other referents that
would probably be considered first, like explicit third-person nouns, or
something the speaker is pointing at. But I think "the previous statement"
is much closer to the "explicit third-person nouns" end of the relevance
spectrum than it is to the "Voldemort's name" end of the spectrum.

If mayqel starts a conversation by saying to me, *bIvoqbe', 'ej muSuj*, how
will I deduce what the subject of *muSuj* is? It's not referring to a
third-person thing or person mentioned earlier in the sentence, because
there are none, and there are no earlier sentences in our conversation to
look back to. It's not referring to a third-person thing he's indicating
physically, because this is the Internet and we both know I can't see if
he's pointing at something. What's something else immediately relevant he
could be referring to? Well, the thing he just said. It makes sense that
the fact that I don't trust could be something that disturbs him, and the
fact that the sentences are connected with *'ej* suggests at least some
rhetorical connection. So I'll go with that. Yes, it's possible that he's
disturbed by (say) the signs that Voldemort has returned, and that's what
the subject of *muSuj* refers to, and for some reason he expressed his
concerns in conjunction with an unrelated thought. But I know that
participants in conversations try to say things that are obviously relevant
(unless Maltz has some information on Klingon conversational maxims he
hasn't been asked about), so it's probably not Voldemort.

*va, tIqchoHpu' QInvam...*
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